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Assessment tools have been

drinking they will have withdrawal symptoms because their body

developed to measure levels of

has to readjust to functioning without alcohol. Symptoms include

drug dependence that are used by

loss of appetite, nausea, anxiety, inability to sleep, irritability,

GPs and workers in drug and

confusion, tremors and sweating.

alcohol services. It is possible to

In severe cases, withdrawal may cause convulsions, cramps,

self assess your own levels of

vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, and even death. Anyone

dependence. The information

considering withdrawing from alcohol should first see their doctor.

If person who is physically dependent on alcohol suddenly stops

below and the qustionnaire at the end of this fact sheet should assist you.

WHAT IS DEPENDENT DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE? There are degrees of dependency (which is also referred to as addiction) to different substances

CRYSTAL: Withdrawal symptoms from crystal are more psychological than physical and include: Day 1-3:

appetite, restlessness, irritability. Day 2-10:

increased appetite, unusual thoughts for example

alcohol and nicotine. It is how often a person must use a drug before they become dependent.

paranoia, hallucinations. Day7-28:

psychologically dependent on a

Mood swings, disturbed sleep, cravings, feeling bored, increased appetite

1 to 3 months Return to normal sleep, mood and activity levels and improvements in general health and mood

Dependence can be psychological, physical, or both. People who are

Cravings to use, mood swings, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, aches, pains and stiffness, headaches,

including licit substances such as impossible to say how long or

Exhaustion, increased sleep, depression, decreased


drug feel compelled in certain or in a number of different,

Withdrawal symptoms include sleep disturbance, irritability, loss of

situations to use a drug in order

appetite, nervousness, anxiety, sweating and upset stomach.

to function effectively, or to

Sometimes chills, increased body temperature and tremors occur.

achieve emotional satisfaction.

The withdrawal symptoms usually last for less than a week,

Physical dependence is when a

although the sleep disturbances may persist for longer.

person's body adapts to a drug and becomes used to functioning with the drug present.




HEROIN: Withdrawal symptoms can include:

If a physically and/or

a craving for the drug

psychologically dependent person



low blood pressure

to functioning without the drug.

elevated heart rate

Withdrawal symptoms are different

stomach and leg cramps, muscle spasms

for different types of drugs and for

loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea

each person. There are numerous

goose bumps

tears and a runny nose

increased irritability

nausea, sweating and sleeping




suddenly stops taking the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms as their body readjusts

types of withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced, such as depression, irritability, cramps,

People who are physically dependent on a drug usually develop a tolerance to the drug. This means that they need to take more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

These withdrawal symptoms get stronger and usually peak around 2 to 4 days after last use. They usually subside after 6 to 7 days, but some symptoms, such as chronic depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, periods of agitation and a continued craving for the drug, may last for periods of months and even years. Sudden withdrawal from heroin rarely causes direct death, unless the user is also using other drugs and is in poor health. Withdrawal from heroin or opioids is much less dangerous than withdrawal from some other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines.



ECSTASY: There is evidence that people can become psychologically dependent on ecstasy and it can be very difficult for them to stop or decrease their use. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body gets used to functioning with the drug present. At present, there is no conclusive evidence that people can become physically dependent on ecstasy.

NICOTINE: Most of these symptoms will disappear within days or weeks of quitting smoking, but cravings may persist for years after stopping using tobacco. Symptoms include: •


irritability, agitation, depression and anxiety

insomnia and disturbed sleeping patterns

increased appetite and weight gain

restlessness and loss of concentration


coughing and sore throat

Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines vary from person to person, but can be quite severe. Some people have no symptoms at all, while others may have symptoms lasting from a few weeks or months to a year. Symptoms tend to come and go, but all withdrawal symptoms eventually disappear as the body adjusts to functioning without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can include: •


aching or twitching muscles


faintness or dizziness


nausea, vomiting and stomach pains

bizarre dreams

inability to sleep properly


difficulty concentrating

anxiety and irritablity

altered perception

heightening of the senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. Other less common withdrawal symptoms may include delirium, delusions, hallucinations, seizures and paranoia. People who have been using benzodiazepines for more than a month should not suddenly stop taking them without seeing a doctor or health worker. A slow reduction in dose over time is recommended to reduce the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. If you suffer from anxiety and/or insomia keep in mind they may simply be withdrawal symptoms. If so, these symptoms will eventually cease.



NICOTINE cont… •

body aches and pains


stomach and bowel upsets.

Symptoms experienced immediately after the person stops using cocaine-usually in the first two to four days. Symptoms include:

In Australia, there are a number of



free lifestyle. Others recognise

intense craving for the drug

abstinence as one option, however,

extreme fatigue.

drug treatment options. Some aim solely for the user to achieve a drug-

due to individual circumstances, this

Withdrawal, which can last up to ten weeks and is

may not be possible in certain

characterised by:

situations. The overall aim of these


lack of energy


tailored to suit a person's specific

intense craving

situation and usually involves a

angry outbursts.

programmes is to reduce the harm/risks related to a person's drug use. Treatment is more effective if

combination of methods. The different options include individual counselling, group therapy, medication and supervised/home withdrawal.

Other withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced include: •

lack of motivation

inability to feel any pleasure




muscle pain

long, but disturbed sleep.

02 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060


Choose a time frame (for example the past month) and then answer each of the following questions about how you felt about your use of a particular drug including alcohol: 1. Do you think your use of _____________ was out of control? (0) never or almost never

(1) often

(2) sometimes

(3) always or nearly always

2. Did the prospect of not using _______________ make you anxious or worried? (0) never or almost never

(1) often

(2) sometimes

(3) always or nearly always

3. Did you worry about your use of ____________________? (0) never or almost never

(1) often

(2) sometimes

(3) always or nearly always

4. Did you wish you could stop using __________________? (0) never or almost never

(1) often

(2) sometimes

(3) always or nearly always

5. How difficult did you (if you did) to stop, or go without _______________? (0) never or almost never

(1) often

(2) sometimes

(3) always or nearly always

How did you Score? For each 0 answer give yourself a score of O, for 1, give yourself a score of 1, and so on. Add up your answers and see what your score is and what it tells you: Scores 0 - 3: Most people who score low are using weekly or less and are not dependent although there may be aspects of the use of the substance that they are have questions about. Scores 4 - 5: People who score 4-5 are often starting to experience some problems with their use. They are usually using 2 or three days a week (higher for alcohol/ nicotine), but don’t feel the need to use the drug all of the time. This may be a good time to moderate use. Scores 6 or greater: Most people who score 6 or higher are aware that their use of drugs and/or alcohol is causing problems and might already be thinking about how to cut down their use, and where they can get help and support to do so. Remember: If you are using drugs and/ or alcohol regularly and want to stop that you may get withdrawal symptoms when you stop. Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on what you are using, how long you have been using for, general health and your mental health.